Every now and then, there is an atheist meme that gives me pause for reflection. Not so much in counter argument, but more in how it epitomizes modern atheist thinking. One such meme goes: “You want me to stop posting atheist memes? Why don’t you pray for me to stop?”
On the surface it seems clever with a kind of distilled, irrefutable reasoning behind it.
But behind the clever quip is a profoundly mistaken assumption. It follows the general trend of missing a foundational premise and then building a reasonable argument on that mistake.
Since this meme is a good example, let’s take it out for a test drive.
The challenge of the statement is that the practice of prayer is totally ineffectual. You cannot cause any concrete change simply by praying.
Since the concept of prayer comes from Scripture, it’s only reasonable to use it to define the premise:
According to Scripture, what exactly is prayer, and what is its purpose?
Let’s start at the basic level of prayer:
“Our Father in heaven… your will be done…” (Matthew 6:9-13)
“We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us…” (Romans 8:26, 27)
According to Scripture, the most foundational reason for prayer is not about my will, but God’s will.
And yet, Christ Himself makes bold promises of prayer regarding our personal concerns.
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19, 20)
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-13)
So which is it? Is prayer about God’s will, or my will (as our atheist meme implies)?
I couldn’t expound on this better than Oswald Chambers, so I quote him in part:
Prayer is not a normal part of the life of the natural man. We hear it said that a person’s life will suffer if he doesn’t pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer. When a person is born again from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve or nourish that life. Prayer is the way that the life of God in us is nourished. … To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.”
Prayer’s first purpose is not for me to get hold of God, but rather, for God to get hold of me. A child of God doesn’t simply ask for things, they ask according to a heart that is so changed that it asks for the same things God desires. Not like a robot, but as a free thinking soul, re-cut from the same spiritual cloth.
That brings us full circle to the meme of our atheist friend.
In the true definition of prayer, I would not pray that you stop, I would pray that you understand. I do not pray that you be silenced or changed to think like me… just that you simply understand the true premise and purpose of all things of God; such as prayer. After that, even God Himself gives you the free will to choose, it’s just a more honest position from which to choose. Anyway, it is certainly food for thought.
Pastor Kevin and his lovely editor-wife Kathy, are happy members of Canaan Community Church